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American Women and Stupid Girls: Misogynistic Lyrics as Faux Social Critique

Mick Jagger and Keith Richards: Spokesmen for Clean Living
Mick Jagger and Keith Richards: Spokesmen for Clean Living

 

Listening to the Rolling Stones’ “Mother’s Little Helper” the other day, I was struck by how much the lyrics resembled a misogynistic MRA rant. Ostensibly a song pointing out the hypocrisy of suburban squares attacking the drug culture whilst themselves popping prescription pills, the song extends its “critique” to cover such subjects as the evil of women making cakes from mixes instead of from scratch.  (See below for videos of all the songs mentioned in this post.)

So you go from this bit of, ahem, social criticism:

“Things are different today,”

I hear ev’ry mother say

Mother needs something today to calm her down

And though she’s not really ill

There’s a little yellow pill

She goes running for the shelter of her mother’s little helper

And it helps her on her way, gets her through her busy day.

To this:

“Things are different today,”

I hear ev’ry mother say

Cooking fresh food for a husband’s just a drag

So she buys an instant cake and she buys a frozen steak

And goes running for the shelter etc etc

Yep, that’s right. Mick’s as bothered by the frozen steak as he is by the dangers of tranquilizer abuse. By the end of the song, the hypothetical freezer-and-cake-mix-using mother has died of an overdose. Told you so!

Misogynistic rock songs aren’t exactly a rarity – hell, “Mother’s Little Helper” isn’t even the worst offender in the Rolling Stones’ disography.

But unlike more straightforward outbursts of misogynistic nastiness like, say, “Under My Thumb,” “Mother’s Little Helper” pretends to be something nobler: a social critique.

The blogger behind the wonderfully arch I Hate the New York Times blog pointed out to me in a tweet that a surprising number of old rock lyrics play this little trick. Taking the form of a “critique of today’s inauthentic & hedonistic society” they are in fact “directed at [a] specific shallow hussy.”

Along with Mother’s Little Helper, IHateNYT suggested I take another look at the lyrics to Paul Revere and the Raiders’ “Kicks.” And, yep, it’s basically the same thing: a critique of drug use in the form of a patronizing lecture to a young woman in search of “kicks,” starting out with this little bit of I-told-you-so, delivered with a sneer:

Girl, you thought you found the answer on that magic carpet ride last night

But when you wake up in the mornin’ the world still gets you uptight

It turns out that the song, written by the songwriting team of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, was inspired by the drug use of a male friend of theirs – though somehow in the song this specific man became a hypothetical “girl.”

And then of course there is the Guess Who’s American Woman, a sort-of critique of America’s “war machines” and “ghetto scenes” in the form of a long, sneering diatribe against a hypothetical woman:

Now woman, I said stay away

American woman, listen what I say

 

American woman, get away from me

American woman, mama let me be

Don’t come knockin’ around my door

Don’t wanna see your shadow no more

And on and on and on for a very long five minutes and nine seconds.

One of the reasons these songs sound so much like MRA rants is that MRAs like to play the same little game, dressing up their misogynistic sentiments in the form of “social critique.” Thus Paul Elam’s faux-environmentalist attack on female consumers, and all that talk about how single mothers and/or “picky women”  are going to bring about the end of civilization. Heck, some manosphere fat-gal-bashers even pretend they fat-bash out of concern for the well-being of the women they’re ridiculing.

It might be entertaining to transform some of these old woman-hating songs into critiques of woman-haters. “Stupid Girl” by the Rolling Stones might be a good place to start. I mean, seriously?

Like a lady in waiting to a virgin queen

Look at that stupid girl

She bitches ’bout things that she’s never seen

Look at that stupid girl

Those are real Rolling Stone lyrics, not a comment from NWOslave. Have at it.

Here are videos of all the songs I mention above:

 

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LBT
LBT
8 years ago

Enh. I heard “You Belong To Me” first, and even when I was TWELVE, that gave me the skeeves. (I spent a sad amount of my youth trying to rationalize shit like that.)

Frankly,I’m kinda shocked Steele didn’t go for the obvious and hit up “Dead Men Don’t Rape.” Since that song IS really fucking vicious. (I feel conflicted since the sheer rage in it was helpful to me at one point. And fuck, I still listen to a lot of old songs that pretty much boil down to “Eat The Rich.”)

Cthulhu's Intern
8 years ago

Oh please, Steele? It’s “common knowledge” that modern music is misandric? I can count on one hand all the people I personally know who even know what misandry is.

lowquacks
lowquacks
8 years ago

Taylor Swift’s entire oeuvre is arguably offensive to people with functioning ears

Hey hey hey hey hey.

I don’t want this to be the hill I die on here, there’s a lot of shittiness lurking in some of her lyrics, I don’t subscribe to the perfect-role-model thing she gets (though she’s not necessarily terrible), I think there’s a lot of *ist reasons for her being as big as she is, and I realise this is terribly uncool, but Taylor’s music is pretty cool sometimes.

“Back to December” is a Big-Star-worthy ballad, and “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” is one of the best pop moments (and videos) of 2012, “Our Song” is an interpretation of modern-country-rock that takes the best rather than the worst from each form, and…

I don’t know, I just developed this odd Taylor obsession that doesn’t make any sense with the rest of my musical taste. Most dudes my age seem to get this because they think she’s really hot, or feel they have to say that or something, but she’s not really my type (incredibly well-behaved hair, though). I can’t help but feel an amount of affection towards most things Taylor, like when you love a cat and recognise how wonderful it is even though when you add it up it’s mostly just an inconvenient creature to have around.

lowquacks
lowquacks
8 years ago

How do I end up spending so much time here discussing bad hair metal and pop country? I do listen to super-cool underground stuff too, I promise.

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
8 years ago

I mostly just find her very bland.

lowquacks
lowquacks
8 years ago

@clairedammit

“Bitching” in the lyrics add nicely to the dog thing. G N’ R Lies is a bit of a throwaway album, and “Used To Love Her” is the band’s jokey take on The Rolling Stones’ “Dead Flowers” as far as I can tell.

Cthulhu's Intern
8 years ago

I don’t really care about her either. But then again, I’m a guy who likes classical and power metal.

Steele
Steele
8 years ago

Says, there are two options here:

One – My misandrist teacher destroyed my reading comprehension; thereby demonstrating that misandry does exist – and yourself and Boobzland are idiots and hatemongers.

Two – My Comprehension is just fine – and you are merely a poor written communicator.

So which is is, Says?

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
8 years ago

It’s definitely the first part of option one.

Nice to see that your writing hasn’t improved either.

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
8 years ago

(I wonder if he understands sarcasm? Probably not.)

lowquacks
lowquacks
8 years ago

@CassandraSays

She is, she is. I don’t expect anyone to share my odd Taylor thing, just didn’t want this to turn into the Taylor-Swift-is-the-devil thing that shows up in progressive spaces a lot.

People get very angry that Taylor’s held up as being this perfect role model when it seems ti them that is should be obvious her safeness and whiteness were very responsible for getting her where she is/she embodies some very problematic ideas and overreact a bit, I find. Led Zep or whatever can come up and there might be some eye-rolling at their (extreme) sexism, but Taylor, who had a big white-dress thing and wrote one homophobic and one “friendzone”-type song at the age of 16, gets mentioned and suddenly everyone’s all “hasn’t anyone noticed how horrible Taylor is?!?!” and it annoys me.

That was long and didn’t make much sense, I know.

meltydali
meltydali
8 years ago

Thats a false dichotomy Steele

lowquacks
lowquacks
8 years ago

Steele, Steele, am I vile enough to get an odd nickname?

meltydali
meltydali
8 years ago

@cassandra I don’t think its a question of recognizing sarcasm as much as it is pretending obvious sarcasm is genuine

Steele
Steele
8 years ago

Says, again, if you concede that my misandrist teacher destroyed my reading comprehension – and thus it is I at fault in this particular case – that gets you off the hook, but this means you are implicitly conceding the existence of misandry; and in such quantities as to be harmful. This violates a fundamental premise of Man Boobz itself.

Says, you’re not impressing me.

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
8 years ago

The thing with Taylor Swift is that even if you recognize that it’s because she’s white and blonde and unchallenging that she’s been so successful, that still doesn’t make her the devil. It’s not her fault that society is set up the way it is – she’s a symptom, not the cause. Her questionable lyrics are more her fault, but even then, eh, most people are idiots at that age. If she’s still writing songs like that at 26 then I’ll come down on her as an individual a lot harder.

lowquacks
lowquacks
8 years ago

Says, again, if you concede that my misandrist teacher destroyed my reading comprehension – and thus it is I at fault in this particular case – that gets you off the hook, but this means you are implicitly conceding the existence of misandry; and in such quantities as to be harmful. This violates a fundamental premise of Man Boobz itself.

*thus it is me

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
8 years ago

Thanks for demonstrating that lack of reading comprehension again, Steele!

lowquacks
lowquacks
8 years ago

@CassandraSays

Exactly! That’s all my embarrassing T-Swift defending done, then.

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
8 years ago

@ lowquacks

He has a particular hate-on for me, hellkell, and a few others for some reason (hmm, wonder what it is?). As a man you will have to try a bit harder to earn your nickname.

clairedammit
clairedammit
8 years ago

Says, again, if you concede that my misandrist teacher destroyed my reading comprehension – and thus it is I at fault in this particular case – that gets you off the hook, but this means you are implicitly conceding the existence of misandry; and in such quantities as to be harmful. This violates a fundamental premise of Man Boobz itself.

PERNICIOUS NONSENSE

lowquacks
lowquacks
8 years ago

@CassandraSays

You seem to get that a LOT from trolls here.

meltydali
meltydali
8 years ago

“Says, again, if you concede that my misandrist teacher destroyed my reading comprehension – and thus it is I at fault in this particular case – that gets you off the hook, but this means you are implicitly conceding the existence of misandry; and in such quantities as to be harmful. This violates a fundamental premise of Man Boobz itself.

Says, you’re not impressing me.”

I’ll say it again, since you seem to have missed it. Those two options you presented earlier are not the only possible options out there. That’s a false dichotomy. The most likely option that you conveniently left out is that you’re deluded and willfully playing dumb

clairedammit
clairedammit
8 years ago

Cassandra, I’ve noticed that the trolls and the troll-types seem to get attached to a particular person. I was hoping mine would be NWO, but alas. You do seem to have more than your fair share, though!

Magpie
Magpie
8 years ago

My brother’s big example of a misandrist song: The Macarena

Cthulhu's Intern
8 years ago

I want a troll, dammit. When do I get my troll?

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
8 years ago

@ lowquacks

Yep. I suspect it’s the combination of snarky and relatively self-confident that ticks them off.

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
8 years ago

@ clairedammit

If NWO comes back you may have a chance! I think his particular hate-crush trigger is when women write about sex, though.

lowquacks
lowquacks
8 years ago

And daring to be both those things while feeeemale and over 25.

Sgt Grumbles
Sgt Grumbles
8 years ago

Never did like the Stones, skeevy creeps.

I’m not much into the Rolling Stones, but it can’t be denied that Paint It Black is a classic. And if you don’t like the Stones, you can listen to the song as covered by other artists, such as Inkubus Sukkubus:
http://youtu.be/LCjq-3g9ewU

I’ve never actually heard “Stupid Girl” by Rolling Stones, but you certainly can’t be against this unrelated song of the same name:
http://youtu.be/sCNPXpehoCM

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
8 years ago

If I would just learn to hate myself like a good woman should I would be so much more popular with sexist dudes. Maybe I should write a few comments bemoaning my wrinkles?

LBT
LBT
8 years ago

I’ve never had a troll here. (Unless you count kladle, that one time, but that was just a sheer WTF moment, more than anything.) I consider this an accomplishment.

Also, WTF ‘destroyed my reading comprehension.’ Guy, reading comprehension isn’t something that if you don’t get it set up by the age of seven, you’re doomed. Hyperbolic much?

Polliwog
8 years ago

I don’t know, I just developed this odd Taylor obsession that doesn’t make any sense with the rest of my musical taste. Most dudes my age seem to get this because they think she’s really hot, or feel they have to say that or something, but she’s not really my type (incredibly well-behaved hair, though). I can’t help but feel an amount of affection towards most things Taylor, like when you love a cat and recognise how wonderful it is even though when you add it up it’s mostly just an inconvenient creature to have around.

I did say “arguably.” 😉

Honestly, she just bugs me because, as a musician by trade, I know a huge number of people who are vastly, vastly, vastly better singers than she is, but who will never have a fraction of her fame because they did not have the fortune to be born a skinny, rich, conventionally attractive white girl. My irritation is less at the girl herself – she’s really just one more pop star who can’t actually sing, and there’s no shortage of those in recent years – than at her as a symbol of the quintessence of “Person Who Got Famous For Being Privileged and Pretty.” Combine that with her frequently problematic lyrics, and you’ve got a recipe for a grumbly Polliwog.

(Also, her ridiculous, over-the-top faux-modesty schtick at every awards show kind of makes me want to throw tomatoes at her. :-p )

But really, I’m never going to be the person saying “YOU CANNOT LIKE THIS THING.” I’ve got too much of a background in music not to be the person saying, “…objectively, the girl cannot sing very well at all,” but what we like has very little to do with objective truths, and so if you like Taylor Swift, more power to you. 🙂

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
8 years ago

The odd thing about Steele is that he reads and writes quite a lot, which usually leads to getting better at both. I’m not quite sure how anyone can manage to write as much as he does without the quality of their writing improving in any way.

LBT
LBT
8 years ago

Enh, Taylor Swift is just dull to me. I prefer a Youtuber’s revamped version of ‘You Belong With Me,’ entitled ‘Fuck Heteronormativity.’ 😀

Not that I can claim superiority. I still have a Good Charlotte album and really like it.

cloudiah
8 years ago

I like this:

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
8 years ago

I kind of hate “no one may like this thing” conversations about art in general. A lot of times there’s icky stuff rolled up with stuff that’s pretty great, because most cultures are full of icky stuff and it tends to make its way into most forms of art. It’s very hard to find music, movies, and so on that don’t contain any sketchy elements at all. So most people end up liking some stuff that has questionable elements and just sort of choosing to ignore the bits they don’t like.

(This is definitely what happens with me and heavy metal.)

lowquacks
lowquacks
8 years ago

@Polliwog

Eh, she’s getting better at that and most of my famous singers aren’t technically much chop at all, so I don’t care too much (big technical music background here too, but I like a lot of “crap”). Taylor sounds a bit like a teenage girl singing karaoke and I think it actually adds a bit.

As far as I can tell, the extreme patience for dealing with fans and shock-and-awe at awards ceremonies aren’t fake either, though you’d suspect them to be.

….This is really enough Taylor-defence for now, lowquacks

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
8 years ago

Actually LBTs comment made me think. I think that when most of us really want to go on a rant about how much X sucks it’s because we feel some sense of ownership or attachment towards X-like things. I had a temporary urge to rant about how much I dislike Good Charlotte, and then I realized that it was because they’re more or less a part of a genre that I tend to like and so I’m harder on them than I would be on any given band in a genre that I don’t care about at all, whereas part of the reason my response to Swift is just “meh” is that I don’t care much about either country music or radio-friendly pop. No sense of attachment = it’s easy not to care.

Steele
Steele
8 years ago

Says – I have nothing approaching any sort of particular animus for you; you merely have behaved egregiously stupidly in this instance. Indeed, I generally find you to one of the more invigorating Boobzers.

LBT
LBT
8 years ago

Yeah, I have a love for superhero comics and HELLOOOOOOOO issues. The racism ALONE could fill a book, never mind all the gender and mental illness crap.

lowquacks
lowquacks
8 years ago

@CassandraSays

re: no one may like this thing

Exactly. We can’t all listen to The Indigo Girls and vegan anarcho-queercore groups while eating organic food and admiring patriarchy-challenging artwork featuring giant vaginas all the time. Some great art is also deeply problematic, and as long as you consciously realise that, it’s all good.

re: good charlotte and such

Does the term “false metal” and the level of anger associated with it come to mind?

Polliwog
8 years ago

Hehe. I remain dubious of the genuineness of her eternal ZOMG-I-WON-A-THING-HOW-CAN-THIS-BE face, but patience with fans is definitely an admirable quality.

And, in all honestly, her newest song is kinda catchy. Not really my style, but I can at least see the appeal there more than I did with “You Belong With Me.” 🙂

lowquacks
lowquacks
8 years ago

I generally find you to one of the more invigorating Boobzers.

Ew.

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
8 years ago

Steele, honey, do you really expect me to care?

(Or for anyone else to care either.)

@ LBT

Exactly, and yet you still love comics, you just want them to be better. Which leads to a tendency to want to pick at the problems that do exist, so that they can be fixed.

(At least in smart, self-aware people. In less self-aware people it leads to OMG THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH X BECAUSE I LOVE IT FUCK YOU HOW DARE YOU CRITICIZE IT YOU BIG MEANIE.)

Sgt Grumbles
Sgt Grumbles
8 years ago

(This is definitely what happens with me and heavy metal.)

Heavy metal is good because it’s, essentially, darker and edgier rock, not because it’s MANLY or any such shit.

Sgt Grumbles
Sgt Grumbles
8 years ago

I fail at blockquotes.

clairedammit
clairedammit
8 years ago

Actually LBTs comment made me think. I think that when most of us really want to go on a rant about how much X sucks it’s because we feel some sense of ownership or attachment towards X-like things.

That makes a lot of sense. I couldn’t care less about Taylor Swift (I’m not sure I’ve even heard her) but do not even get me started on how much I hate The Dirty Projectors. No. Don’t get me started. And most of the hate is because they’re played on KCRW and The Current, where they play most of the other music I love.

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
8 years ago

@ lowquacks

Also, honestly, I don’t like Indigo Girls, and I do like meat, and…you know? Personal preferences don’t always align neatly with political ideals. I try to avoid really egregious examples of “wow the person who created this is fucked up”, but I tend to let the small stuff slide.

clairedammit
clairedammit
8 years ago

When doing blockquotes, don’t forget about the slash in the second tag.